Cookbook Confidential: Whole Wheat Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Swiss Chard

My friend Bernadette from New Classic Recipe came up with the idea to have an on-line cook book club with some of her blog buddies. What fun, and a great way to choose a recipe or two from the books, cook them, and review the books.

“Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” from Christopher Kimball

      The first book selected (we are all suggesting different cook books) was “Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” from Christopher Kimball. The book is about simplicity, getting a meal on the table on a weeknight quickly, and deliciously. The recipes I chose lived up to those goals.

Organized by speed

      The book is organized into recipes that are Fast, Faster, and Fastest, Salad Suppers, Hearty Vegetarian, Supper Soups, and Flat and Folded. The books offers a range of Mediterranean cultures and traditions, in a “direct, simple, and honest way” that is also healthful. While there are many vegetarian options, Kimball states “We are not afraid of meat or fat, but we are afraid of unnecessary ingredients and over-complicated ingredients.” The recipes achieved this goal as well.

First up, a pasta

      I chose two recipes from the book, and, despite being totally contrary to the way I usually use a cookbook (inspiration), and the way I usually execute a cookbook’s recipe (by the feel of it and what I like), I stayed almost totally true to what was written. My only deviation in the recipe was to substitute a plant milk for the whole milk, and I was confident it would not adversely affect the recipe because it was only being used as a softener of the breadcrumbs to make the panade. Besides, I didn’t have any milk in the house and didn’t feel like going to the store for ¼ cup of the full-fat dairy. I also wanted to add more garlic, but didn’t. Do you also always want to tweak here or there? Can’t leave anything alone!

Winter comfort food

      I started with the Whole Wheat Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Swiss Chard, a perfect dish for the winter in the north, which we’re told is based on a pasta dish from Liguria in Northern Italy. Additionally, my granddaughter was staying over and since her mother is allergic to tree nuts, this would be something she’d never have a home. Once I said the word spaghetti, she was all in!

In the time it takes for the pasta to cook

      We can almost always find local Swiss chard, and the rest of the ingredients were all from the pantry. You could easily substitute spinach or another hearty green here if you can’t find the chard. In the time it took the water to boil and pasta to cook, everything else was ready and waiting. I like that in a weeknight pasta dish.

A hit with all

      The dish was delightful, and everyone loved it; a double thumbs up from the kid! Extremely rich and creamy, even though there was no cream in it! The walnuts were indeed the star, and the nuttiness of the whole wheat pasta complimented them. There was only one tablespoon of lemon juice in the sauce, and if I make this again, I would bump this up; with so much pasta, the lemon didn’t even really seem to have a presence or cut the richness, and the recipe made a lot! While it says it will feed 4 to 6, we got eight good servings out of this.

Basic techniques

      There are some good techniques here, such as using the pasta water for the creaminess, blanching the chard with the pasta at the end of the pasta cooking time, and a beginner cook would be able to execute this easily.

Now, for a bean dish

            The second dish I made was Spicy White Beans with Tahini, Lemon, and Parsley, based on a Turkish dish called “Piyaz.” Recipe here. You can put this together in 15 minutes, and it is full of flavor and spice. The recipe calls for a basic lemon and tahini dressing tossed with white beans that have been warmed with cumin and coriander seeds and garlic that have bloomed in olive oil. The recipe called for 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, but no zest. I made the dish as written and tasted it. It was really good. Then I couldn’t resist, I added the zest of that lemon, and it was even better. We nibbled on it for a few days, and at the last, I mashed it up and ate it on crackers. Very good,

Beautiful full-page photos

      One of the best aspects of the cookbook is the beautiful photography. Every recipe is presented shot with a full-page glossy photo. This is always a plus for me! Takes a lot of guesswork out of the process, and gets the mouth watering as well!

Budget and time friendly

      Is this book going to “change the way America Cooks?” not really, but the bottom line is that whether you are a fan of Kimball or not, the book has some good basics, and simple introduction to flavors from other countries; if you want to spread your wings and try something new in terms of spices, but don’t have a lot of extra time, you’ll find some good ideas here that won’t break the bank or take too much time. The ingredients are easily sourced for the most part, and suggestions are made for possible substitutions. For instance, a recipe called for ground sumac, and let you know you could substitute a little lemon juice if it couldn’t be found. 

      For other reviews of this book, and additional recipes, please go to Bernadette’s site for links.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Swiss Chard

  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup whole milk (or plant milk!)
  • 1 lb. whole wheat farfalle or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard leaves (about a lb.) chopped 2-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • 1 oz. Parmesan cheese, without rind, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh marjoram or oregano, minced
  • Parmesan to garnish

      In a small bowl, stir together the panko and milk; set aside while you cook the pasta. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 2 tbsp. salt, then cook stirring occasionally, until 2 to 3 minutes shy of al dente. Add the chard to the pot and cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve about 1 ½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and greens; return them to the pot.

      Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the panko mixture walnuts, Parmesan, oil, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Pulse until the walnuts are roughly chopped, about 3 pulses, then process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs about 20 seconds, Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water, then process util smooth and creamy, about another 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl once.

      Add the walnut sauce to the pasta-chard mixture, then toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

      Author’s Notes: Don’t toast the walnuts for this sauce. Also, don’t use the chard stems; they require longer cooking than the delicate leaves. But don’t throw them out as they can be quick pickled or sauteed with aromatics when making soups or stews.

      My Notes: I used almost the entire 1 ½ cups of water in making the sauce. It will depend on your pasta.

      I think this would be delicious with any favorite nut, pecans or cashews come to my mind here! You could also substitute a favorite green here as well, such as spinach, if you can’t find the chard. I would be tempted to chop up and use the stems as well, or the pickling idea served alongside would be good.

This is easily made vegan by substituting the plant milk and vegan Parmesan at the end.

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56 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    This looks good!

    1. Thank you so much! We all loved it!

  2. Hi Dorthy – Both of these recipes sound like my kind of dishes. Thank you for sharing them here. I greatly enjoyed your review.

    1. Thanks! It was lots of fun participating in this book club!

  3. TaMara says:

    Oh, my gosh, that walnut pasta dish looks divine (yes, I said divine) and I seem to have an abundance of walnuts in the frig. Perfect.

    1. Well, sounds like you have supper all planned!

  4. sunisanthosh says:

    This delectable recipe is worth. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It’s certainly recommended, especially for a busy weeknight.

  5. Sheree says:

    What a lovely idea! I generally try each recipe as is first time around and then, if I’ve enjoyed it, ask myself how I could improve it. I’ll then jot ideas on a post-it note and place it on the recipe for next time.

    1. That’s a good method Sheree! I try to do that do, but usually have to end up sitting on my hands to stop myself from fiddling…

  6. That pasta dish looks absolutely delicious. I would have enjoyed being one of those 8 servings. 🙂 I have always enjoyed beans, but do have some stomach issues these days if I have very many so I probably would have enjoyed a couple of crackers. Dorothy, you do a kitchen proud. 🙂

    1. Why thank you my friend! The pasta was really delicious, so were the beans, and I’d make both again, with a few Dorothy tweaks of course!

  7. gabychops says:

    Thank you, Dorothy, for the interesting dish.


    1. Thanks Joanna! It was tasty indeed!

  8. Nancy says:

    Yes please! The walnuts and pasta are calling my name!
    Your creations are always incredible and inspiring!

    1. Thank you Nancy. The recipes in this cookbook are really easy, and the two I tried were quite tasty!

  9. Jenna says:

    I like the premise of this cookbook, easy weeknight dinners, and I love this pasta one you chose, it sounds wonderful! I’m not a big of beans, but if you ate the leftovers on crackers that recipe must be good!

    1. I actually loved the beans on crackers! I can see myself making this for a party with that exact intention!

  10. You found my sweet spot, D … actually, one of many! I love walnuts! I bet this would be mind-blowing over porcini and chopped walnut ravioli. What do you think? 😋 🤯

    1. Oh yes!!! I’m there with anything mushroom any time! Add the walnuts, and I’m happy!

  11. Maggie says:

    That looks delicious!

    1. We really enjoyed it Maggie!

  12. nancyruth says:

    Both of these look and sound fantastic. And it’s nice to have a home cook’s review of new cookbooks.

    1. They were very good.

  13. I would love this pasta dish. It has ingredients I really enjoy eating.

    1. I agree, and primarily pantry ingredients!

  14. Ronit says:

    Both dishes sound delicious. 🙂

    1. They were simple, but really tasty Ronit!

  15. Suzassippi says:

    Oh, my! Both of these are my kind of meal!

    1. Mine too, and they were most satisfying!

  16. A cook club, what a delicious idea! This pasta looks scrumptious Dorothy! Thank you! You’re my inspiration! 💕C

    1. Ah! Thanks! It was a great idea from Bernadette!

  17. Carolyn Page says:

    Reading your notes in regard the two recipes left me feeling I could certainly give them a go. Like you, Dorothy, I cannot help but stray from a recipe – extra this and less of that. I guess it’s about knowing our likes and those for whom we are cooking…
    As someone who adores a ‘sauce’; the walnut sauce looks very tempting! – over most anything…

    1. Highly recommended my friend, so easy and delicious!

  18. Bernadette says:

    Dorothy, you are too funny. It is the mark of an accomplished cook to personalize their cooking. I didn’t realize how hard it would be for you😂. Thanks for the wonderful review.

    1. Yes, dear Bernadette, this was such a complicated and difficult recipe, I almost quit halfway through from exhaustion! But, I persevered, and ended up with a lovely dish!

  19. Sandhya says:

    Such a delicious recipe with so many layers of flavor!

    1. Thank yu Sandhya! It was really good!

  20. terrie gura says:

    Both of these dishes sound great! I’m so much like you, Dorothy, in that I cannot EVER leave a recipe alone. Someone would have to literally restrain me to keep me from sprinkling a few extra toasted and buttered panko crumbs on top of the pasta dish! I don’t know about you, but when I follow a recipe to the letter, I find that it takes me longer to cook than when I improvise and follow my instinct.

    1. Same with me Terrie! I get caught up on reading every little instruction that I forget to just cook!
      When we reheated the pasta, I added a bit more lemon juice and I topped it with toasted breadcrumbs and minced walnuts. It was way better that way!!!!!

  21. Angela says:

    The whole wheat pasta with walnut sauce sounds so good!! I have been wanting to slowly switch my family over to whole wheat pasta, but I am afraid of the mutiny that might ensue. Maybe if I try it with this recipe? Also, what a fun idea to do the cookbook book club! I love that idea!

    1. When I switched over, even the kids barely noticed. It’s still pasta!

  22. What a great idea. An online test kitchen!

    1. This first run has been a blast!

  23. Ally Bean says:

    The pasta dish looks like something we’d enjoy. I’ll be adding this to my list of new recipes to try. Thanks for sharing it here.

    1. It was really tasty, and we all enjoyed it!

  24. nancyc says:

    This pasta definitely looks like comfort food and it’s always nice when comfort food is healthy like this too! 🙂

    1. Yes, I was pleased to see so many healthful recipes!

  25. I have tried over and over again but I just can’t find myself to like whole wheat pasta, however, I would happily make this with regular pasta. I love Swiss chard and your sauce looks SO good Dorothy!!!!

    1. You can substitute any pasta you like! This was a really simple recipe, quick, and everyone was elastic waste pants happy!

  26. So many wonderful cook books! I love both recipes for a weeknight meal! So delicious!

    1. I was delighted with these two very easy recipes, and the pasta was a big hit! Made a ton too!

  27. Kevin says:

    This looks lovely – I really like steamed chard, but always feel it is a very much under-used vegetable that should be celebrated more!

    1. I agree with you Kevin. It’s a delightful green with so much flavor, and it can stand up to a little more cooking than other greens. Really nutritious too!

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